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Posts Tagged ‘USA TODAY DONALD TRUMP’

(TRUMP) TOWER OF LIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on August 9, 2018 at 12:10 am

If you commit a crime, don’t issue multiple—and contradictory—statements about what you did.

Case in point: Donald Trump’s latest version about the infamous meeting at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.

Among its attendees:

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager Paul Manafort; 
  • At least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, including Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya; and 
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of “having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.”

It was supposed to remain secret—from the press, the FBI and the voters.

When The New York Times broke the story, the Trump team scrambled to explain it as innocent a way as possible. 

They certainly didn’t want voters to think that their candidate had committed treason by meeting with officials of a hostile foreign power to manipulate a Presidential election.

On July 8, 2017, Donald Trump, Jr., issued the following statement: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.  

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Donald Trump, Jr. [Gage Skidmore photo]

“I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”

On July 9, he added: “No details or supporting information was provided or even offered.”

Then The New York Times reported that, at the meeting, Trump Jr. was promised damaging information about Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

So, on July 9,  Trump Jr. issued a new statement: “After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton.

“Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act.”

[This is a bipartisan bill passed by Congress in 2012, to punish Russian officials responsible for the torture and death of a Russian tax accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, in a Moscow prison in 2009.]

“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting.” 

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Trump Tower 

(By Jorge Láscar from Australia)

On July 11, Trump, Jr., tweeted: “The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research. I first wanted to just have a phone call but when that didn’t work out, they said the woman would be in New York and asked if I would meet.

“I decided to take the meeting. The woman, as she has said publicly, was not a government official. And, as we have said, she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy and the Magnitsky Act.”

On July 16, Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, he went on “Meet the Press” to announce: “Let me say this—but I do want to be clear—that the President was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement. It came from Donald Trump Jr.”

Then, on July 31, The Washington Post broke the news that Trump himself “personally dictated” the July 8 statement issued by his son.

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Donald Trump

On August 1. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said “[President Trump] certainly didn’t dictate [the statement] but he—like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestion like any father would do.”

On June 2, 2018, Trump’s lawyers drafted a memo to Special Counsel Robert Mueller: “You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.

“His son then followed up by making a full public disclosure regarding the meeting, including his public testimony that there was nothing to the meeting and certainly no evidence of collusion.” 

On June 3, Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani said on “Meet the Press”: “I think [Sekulow] was uninformed at the time just like I was when I came into the case. He was just in the case. This is a point that maybe wasn’t clarified in terms of recollection and his understanding of it.”

Then, on June 15, Trump, in a White House press conference, said: “It’s irrelevant. It’s a statement to the New York Times—the phony, failing New York Times…That’s not a statement to a high tribunal of judges.” 

Almost two months later, on August 5, Trump tweeted: “Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!”

Thus, by Donald Trump’s own admission, a secret meeting “about the adoption of Russian children” has become “a meeting to get information on an opponent.”

THE MEDIA AND TRUMP: “LET’S PRETEND”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 1, 2018 at 12:10 am

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that he is a victim of “fake news.”

But future historians will note how often the media ignored the foremost reality of theirtime: That the United States was led by a psychopathic dictator. 

This is true even for CNN, the network that Trump clearly hates the most.

Consider this line from a May 22, 2018 CNN essay on Trump vs. the press by David Gergen:

“Instead of raging on about ‘fake news,’ the President would do well to read Peggy Noonan [a Ronald Reagan speechwriter turned author] on Reagan and focus on building his character.”

So what’s wrong with this? 

Trump is 72 years old. George Orwell wrote that, by age 50, every man has the face he deserves. By age 72, every man has the character he has spent his life being. And Trump’s life has been dedicated to inflating his wallet and his ego.

He isn’t going to radically change at this point—especially if he believes himself “a very stable genius.”

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Donald Trump

Then there’s this gem from a July 30, 2018 story: “Trump Opens Window Into His Rage With Mueller Attack.”

This focused on a tweetstorm Trump launched against Special Counsel Robert Mueller just two days before Mueller prosecuted Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman. 

Among those tweets: 

“Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend.”

And: 

“…Also, why is Mueller only appointing Angry Dems, some of whom have worked for Crooked Hillary, others, including himself, have worked for Obama….And why isn’t Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity & real Russian Collusion on the Democrats side-Podesta, Dossier?”

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Robert Mueller

CNN characterized this cascade of libel as a “trio of tweets…packed with inaccuracies and misrepresentations.” 

An accurate description would have been: “Lies.” 

Or consider these comments from Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, after a meeting between him and Trump: 

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence. 

“I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger

So what is wrong with these comments? 

Like the saccharine that floods the airways at Christmastime, they reek of a deliberate suspension of reality. That’s when even the most cynical TV news reporters feel compelled to ask, around the anchor desk: “Gee, Jim, do you really think there could be peace on Earth, good will to men?” 

And the answer, of course, is: Yes—in a science fiction movie.

Similarly, to appeal to Trump’s “better angels” on behalf of the news media is an exercise in futility—and insanity. 

This is a man who has said—proudly: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

A 2016 analysis by USA Today found that for 30 years, Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal courts and state court. This is not a man who, at heart, is a peacemaker. 

Nor is he a man who has any respect for truth. The Washington Post has reported that during his first 298 days in the White House, Trump said or tweeted 1,628 lies or misleading statements. This makes for an average of 5.5 lies a day. 

To expect—as Sulzberger apparently did—that Trump has any regard for such Constitutional niceties as freedom of the press is beyond rationality. 

Trump has furiously attacked the institutions that Americans have long cherished—such as: 

  • An independent judiciary
  • A free press
  • Intelligence agencies (such as the FBI and CIA) charged with protecting the country against subversion
  • An incorruptible Justice Department.

Donald Trump isn’t crazy. Nor does he abuse power by well-meaning accident.

He knows exactly what he’s doing—and why. 

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public.  If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

Yet the media—including CNN—has refused to brand Trump as the liar and dictator he clearly is.

THE DISCRIMINATION DOOR SWINGS BOTH WAYS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 24, 2018 at 9:23 pm

On June 19, Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was heckled by protesters while dining at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C. 

The reason: To protest the Trump administration’s separation of illegal alien parents from their children in detention centers.

Then, three nights later, on June 22, the owner of a Lexington, Virginia, restaurant asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave. 

The reason: To protest the Trump’s discrimination against transgenders’ entering the military. 

Those verbally assailing Nielsen shouted:

  • “Do you hear the babies crying?”
  • “If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace.”
  • “Shame! Shame! Shame!”  
  • “In a Mexican restaurant of all places. The fucking gall.”
  • “No borders, no wall, sanctuaries for all.”

On June 23, Sanders tweeted her version of her requested exit: “Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders

According to The Washington Post, the Red Hen’s co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, got a call from her staff, reporting that Sanders was at the restaurant. Several employees are gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s efforts to bar transgenders from the military.

She added that her restaurant has “certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion and cooperation.”

From her statement, Wilkinson clearly believed Sanders was dishonest, inhumane and uncooperative.

On June 25, President Trump tweeted: “The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!” 

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Donald Trump

[Trump’s charge that the Red Hen is “dirty on the inside” was—as usual for him—false. 

[According to its most recent state health inspection in February, the Red Hen restaurant had zero violations.

[On the other hand: Florida health inspectors cited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach with 15 violations in late January, 2017, days before Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe there for a diplomatic visit

Nor was this an exception. From 2014-2017, records show the club was cited 78 times for such violations as:

  • Chefs handling food without washing their hands
  • Dirty cutting boards
  • A slicer “soiled with old food debris” and
  • The “accumulation of black/green mold-like substance” in the ice machine.]

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Mar-a-Lago

Ironically, Trump and his followers are responsible for Nielsen’s and Sanders’ evictions. They have pushed legislation allowing businesses to discriminate against anyone they dislike on the basis of “religious freedom.”

On March 26, 2015, Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana before accepting Trump’s invitation to become his Vice Presidential nominee, signed into law the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” 

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons can legally refuse to do so. Or a hospital can legally refuse to treat gay patients.

Although he praised the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. 

On the eve of invading the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler told an aide: “At the beginning of each campaign, one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room. One can never know what is hiding inside.”

Maybe Pence—like Hitler—sensed that he, too, was about to push open “a door into a dark, unseen room.” 

On the day after Pence signed the Act, Bill Levin filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State to register the First Church of Cannabis as a legitimate religious institution. The registration was approved.

By elevating religion above the law, Indiana’s legislators may have enabled Indiana’s Muslims to:

  • Claim their right—guaranteed in Islamic religious law—to have as many as four wives.
  • Demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor. (As happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.)
  • Demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim. (As happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And it was the Trump administration that supported the Supreme Court’s June 4 ruling 7-2 on behalf of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. He had claimed that doing so would violate his religious beliefs against homosexuality. 

By championing the rights of businesses to legally discriminate against anyone they dislike—under the guise of “religious freedom”—Trump and his followers have opened a door that they themselves may now be forced to walk through.

TRUMP AS SLAYER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 14, 2018 at 1:05 am

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Donald Trump—then a candidate for President—said at a rally in Sioux Center, Iowa. 

That low moment—one of many others in his campaign—came on January 23, 2016.

Recently, the idea that Trump might shoot someone—and get away with it—has also occurred to his attorney, Rudloph Giuliani. 

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Donald Trump

“In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted,” Giuliani told the Huffington Post. “I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is.”

On June 3, 2018, the former Federal prosecutor asserted that, no matter what crime Trump might commit, he couldn’t be held accountable for it unless he was first impeached. 

“If he shot [former FBI Director] James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day. Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.”  

Trump’s legal team had recently said as much in a letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating documented ties between Trump’s Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.  Trump’s counsel said that that the President “could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.”  

Asked on ABC’s “This Week” if Trump could legally pardon himself, Giuliani said: “He probably does. He has no intention of pardoning himself, but he probably—not to say he can’t.” 

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Rudolph Giuliani

Trump quickly backed up his attorney’s claim with a tweet on Twitter: “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”

Conservative commentator Joe Scarborough had a different take on the issue. 

“This is really literally out of a tyrant’s playbook,” Scarborough said on his MSNBC show, “Morning Joe.”

“You pick the president’s sworn political enemy and then you put it out there about the shooting of him. And you let the president’s followers know that—Vladimir Putin could shoot his political rival and not be thrown in jail. [Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan could do the same thing. Except this is in America.

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Joe Scarborough

By NBC News (NBC News)  [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“What if Barack Obama had said in 2009, 2010, or let’s say Eric Holder here. What if [Obama’s Attorney General] Eric Holder had said, ‘You know what? Barack Obama could shoot Rush Limbaugh and he can’t be indicted. Barack Obama could shoot Paul Ryan and he couldn’t be indicted. You know what, Barack Obama could shoot George W. Bush and he couldn’t be indicted.’

“The reaction from Republicans and the media would be just mind-boggling.”  

During the Nixon administration, the Justice Department wrestled with the question: Is a sitting President immune from indictment and criminal prosecution?

Its Office of Legal Counsel determined that indicting and criminally prosecuting a President would interfere with his ability to carry out his constitutionally given duties.

And that has been its position since 1974. Although reaffirmed in the Clinton administration, it has never been tested in court.

What lies beyond doubt is this: For Republicans, actions that are perfectly justifiable for a Republican President are absolutely taboo for a Democratic one. 

  • Republicans accused Democrats of blocking Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, for the Supreme Court. Yet Obama’s nominee for the seat, Merrick Garland, is the only candidate in the history of the United States to be denied a hearing by the opposition—Republicans.
  • More than nine out of 10 Tea Partiers said they feared Obama’s policies were “moving the country toward socialism.” Yet Republicans overwhelmingly voted for a man—Trump—who has repeatedly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and clearly has close ties with him. 
  • Republicans falsely accused Obama of creating “death panels” in the Affordable Care Act—yet have enthusiastically supported Trump’s efforts to destroy access to healthcare for more than 20 million Americans.
  • During the Republican-orchestrated government shutdown in October, 2013, Arizona state Representative Brenda Barton attacked Obama for closing Federal monuments: “Someone is paying the National Park Service thugs overtime for their efforts to carry out the order of De Fuhrer…where are our Constitutional Sheriffs who can revoke the Park Service Rangers authority to arrest???” 
  • In a June 10, 2012 tweet, Donald Trump wrote: “Why is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?”   
  • “The problem with executive [orders], it’s really bad news for this reason,” Ohio Governor John Kasich said of Obama in February, 2016. “Since he’s given up on working with Congress, he thinks he can impose anything he wants. He’s not a king. He’s a president.”  

But Republicans who accused Obama of acting like a dictator haven’t objected to Trump’s “joking” that it would be “great” if the United States had a “President-for-Life”—like China. 

Nor have they objected to Trump’s flood of executive orders—65 in a year and a half. The inescapable message in all this: “Legitimacy is only for us—not for you.” 

Or, as Joe Scarborough put it: “This is really literally out of a tyrant’s playbook,”

TRUMP: INSULTS FOR AMERICA’S FRIENDS, HUGS FOR ITS ENEMIES

In Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 13, 2018 at 1:24 am

“He appeared to need enemies the way other men need friends, and his conduct assured that he would always have plenty of them.” 

So wrote William Manchester about General Douglas MacArthur in his monumental 1978 biography, American Caesar. But he could have written this just as accurately about Donald Trump, both as Republican Presidential candidate and President.

As a Presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.  

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.  

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Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. Among his targets:

  • Hillary Clinton
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger 
  • News organizations
  • Beauty pageant contestants 

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war 

As President, he has continued to insult virtually everyone, verbally and on Twitter. His targets have included Democrats, Republicans, the media, foreign leaders (most notably North Korea’s “Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong On) and even members of his Cabinet. 

The one major figure that Trump has never attacked is Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

But Trump has no such hesitation about insulting leaders of nations which have been America’s traditional allies—such as Canada. 

On June 10, Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of undermining the US and its allies with comments he made at the G7 economic summit in Quebec.

Related imageJustin Trudeau

The G7 is comprised of France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, the United States and Italy.

“It was a betrayal,” Kudlow accused Trudeau on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He really kind of stabbed us in the back.” 

Kudlow said the allies should have been more supportive of Trump because of his scheduled June 12 meeting in Singapore with North Korean dictator Kim Jong On.

“They should have said to him, ‘God speed, you are negotiating with the crazy nuclear tyrant in North Korea, and we are behind you.'” 

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Larry Kudlow

On June 9, the prime minister had said in a press conference that Canada would “move forward with retaliatory measures” on July 1. 

The reason for this: Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico

“I have made it very clear to the President that it is not something we relish doing, but it something that we absolutely will do,” Trudeau said. “Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.” 

And Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, went further: “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.

“And that’s what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference. That’s what weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau did, and that comes right from Air Force One.”  

Given the sheer brutality of the language, there’s no reason to doubt that Navarro was absolutely reflecting Trump’s own venomous anger.    

“He [Trump[ did him [Trudeau] a favor,” Navarro said. “He was even willing to sign that socialist communique.”

On June 10, Trump tweeted: “Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!,” 

But while Trump has made clear his detestation of socialism, he has no qualms about rewarding the aggression of a hardcore Communist like Vladimir Putin. On June 9, he called for Russia to be readmitted to the G7.  

“I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in,” he said during an impromptu press conference at the summit.

“I think it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G7. I think the G8 would be better.”  

Russia was ousted from the group in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea—the first violation of a European country’s borders since World War II. 

“Today crystallizes precisely why Putin was so eager to see Trump elected,” said former Obama National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.

“For Putin, this is return on his investment, and it’s safe to say that his investment has paid off beyond even his wildest dreams,” he said in a statement to CNN.   

And, in a turn of events that some might call poetic justice, moments after he arrived in Singapore for his meeting with Kim Jong On, Trump tweeted: “Our Great Larry Kudlow, who has been working so hard on trade and the economy, has just suffered a heart attack. He is now in Walter Reed Medical Center.” 

ROBERT MUELLER SUFFERED FOR YOUR SINS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 21, 2018 at 12:26 am

His face is lined and his gray hair is topped with a black hat. This is clearly not a young man. If he’s seen his share of violence, he doesn’t talk about it.

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He’s about to face four armed and vicious criminals who intend to murder him. And he’s going to do it without support from the very citizens he’s sworn to defend.

His name: Will Kane, as played by Gary Cooper. And he’s the local marshal of an anonymous Western town.

“High Noon,” the 1952 movie in which this story takes place, won a Best Actor Academy Award for its star, Cooper. It was nominated for another six Academy Awards and won four (Actor, Editing, Music-Score, and Music-Song).

Its opening tune, “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling,” played incessantly on radios throughout the United States. President Dwight D. Eisenhower added his kudos to the movie, and often hummed its  theme in the White House.

Fast forward to an America 66 years later.

A similar morality play is now occurring—in real life, not on a movie set. At stake isn’t simply the life of one man but perhaps the future of American democracy.

Carrying that burden is Robert Swan Mueller III.

Like the Gary Cooper character in “High Noon,” he is not a young man—born on August 7, 1944. And, like Cooper’s Will Kane, he is tall, gray-haired and tight-lipped.

But while Cooper never saw military service, Mueller did. A 1966 graduate of Princeton University, he served as a Marine Corps infantry platoon commander during the Vietnam War.

Wounded in combat, among the military awards he received were:

  • The Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for heroism (for saving a wounded Marine while under enemy fire).
  • The Purple Heart Medal (awarded for wounds in combat).
  • Two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat “V”.
  • Combat Action Ribbon.
  • National Defense Service Medal.

Having given three years of his life (1968-1971) to the Marines, Mueller devoted the rest of his life to law enforcement.

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Robert Mueller

A 1973 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, Mueller served as:

  • United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (1986-1987);
  • United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (1990-1993);
  • United States Attorney for the Northern District of California (1998-2001);
  • United States Deputy Attorney General (January 20, 2001– May 10, 2001).

On September 4, 2001—seven days before Al Qaeda’s monstrous 9/11 attacks on Washington and New York—President George W. Bush appointed him director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Widely praised for his integrity and effectiveness, he served his full 10-year term—the legal maximum. 

But when President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he asked Mueller—a lifelong Republican—to stay on for an additional two years until a suitable replacement could be found.

Mueller agreed—and was succeeded by a fellow Justice Department colleague named James Comey.

Retiring from the FBI in 2013 at age 69, Mueller’s 27-year career as a dedicated law enforcer seemed at last to be over. 

Then, on May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump fired Comey as FBI director. There were three reasons for this:

  • Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made the “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.
  • Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief—as was the case in the former Soviet Union.
  • Trump had tried to coerce Comey into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand. 
  • Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into well-documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • The goal of that collaboration: To elect Trump over Hillary Clinton, a longtime foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

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James Comey

On May 10—the day after firing Comey—Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. 

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 

And on May 11, Trump, interviewed on NBC News by reporter Lester Holt, said: “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'”       

NEWS MEDIA: HEAL THYSELF!

In History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on May 7, 2018 at 12:25 am

On April 28, comedian Michelle Wolf skewered high-ranking Trump administration officials and members of the nation’s elite media.

She did so as the host of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C.

As a result, she has been furiously attacked by Right-wing defenders of the Trump administration and some of the nation’s most prominent media.

Almost all of their attention has focused on the Trump officials she ridiculed—especially Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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Michelle Wolf

But Wolf threw a series of sharp-edged zingers at some of the Nation’s most prominent media. And these comments have gone largely ignored.

They are, however, well worth examining—for the uncomfortable truths they reveal about much of the news being served up under the guise of fearless objectivity.

On little-watched C-SPAN:  This is on C-SPAN; no one watches that. Trump is president; it’s not ideal.

On liberal media’s obsession with “Russiagate”:  I know there’s a lot of people that want me to talk about Russia and Putin and collusion, but I’m not going to do that because there’s also a lot of liberal media here. And I’ve never really wanted to know what any of you look like when you orgasm.

On CNN—where “news” now consists of a series of “talking heads” pontificating about stories that other journalists have dug up:  We’ve got our friends at CNN here. You guys love breaking news, and you did it. You broke it. Good work. The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.

On Fox News’ sexual harassment scandals involving such prominent (and former) members as CEO Roger Ailes and commentator Bill O’Reilly:  Fox News is here. So, you know what that means, ladies: Cover your drinks. Seriously.

On Fox News’ actual role as the propaganda organ of the Republican party:  People want me to make fun of [Fox News commentator] Sean Hannity tonight, but I cannot do that; this dinner is for journalists.

News Media

On weak-rated MSNBC, which is the liberal version of Fox News:  We’ve got MSNBC here. MSNBC’s news slogan is, “This is who we are.” Guys, it’s not a good slogan. “This is who we are” is what your mom thinks the sad show on NBC is called. “Did you watch ‘This Is Who We Are’ this week? Someone left on a Crockpot, and everyone died.”

On Megyn Kelly, who rose to fame and fortune as a Right-wing propaganda shill on Fox News:  And, of course, Megyn Kelly. What would I do without Megyn Kelly? You know, probably be more proud of women. 

And, by the way, Megyn, Santa’s black. The weird old guy going through your chimney was Bill O’Reilly. You might want to put a flue on it or something.  

[This last jibe centered on Kelly’s infamous December 11, 2013 Fox broadcast where she claimed: “I kind of laughed and said this is so ridiculous.  Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa. For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white….Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man too.”]

On the continuing demise of newspapers—on which TV “news reporters” depend for their information:  There’s a lot of print media here. There’s a ton of you guys, but I’m not going to go after print media tonight because it’s illegal to attack an endangered species. Buy newspapers.

On the media’s—especially the television media’s—morbid obsession with Donald Trump:  There’s a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we’re covering like three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving.

On the media’s responsibility for the rise of a President they now detest:  You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you.

He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.

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Donald Trump

[This last joke was probably the most painful the assembled media bigwigs had to endure. Because it’s undeniably true.

Trump’s campaign was saved from spending millions on TV advertising because the major TV news networks covered his every word. This was especially true when he was attacking women, blacks, Mexicans, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama—and even beauty pageant contestants.

For the media, Trump was “good for ratings”—in the same way that Mike Tyson was “good for boxing.” Both were seen as freaks—and thus guaranteed to lure viewers eager to find out: “What outrageous thing has he done now?”] 

WHO WAS MORE OFFENSIVE?

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on May 2, 2018 at 12:10 am

On April 28, comedian Michelle Wolf skewered high-ranking Trump administration officials and members of the nation’s elite media.

She did so as the host of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C.

Traditionally, it’s been an occasion where Washington’s political and media elites enjoy dinner and trade barbed quips at one another.

But President Donald Trump chose to skip the dinner in 2017 and 2018. Trump—who repeatedly  insults others—is too thin-skinned to accept even harmless jokes aimed at him.

That, however, didn’t deter Wolf. And she served up a series of barbed jokes aimed at the greed, deceit and hypocrisy of high-ranking Trump administration officials.

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Michelle Wolf

For which, she has herself been attacked by defenders of the Right-wing Trump administration and some of the nation’s most prominent media.

Tyler O’Neil, a Right-wing commentator for PJ Media, was outraged at Wolf’s comparing White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Aunt Lydia in the Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale.

“The premise of The Handmaid’s Tale, and the suggestion that Trump or anyone associated with him would ever countenance such a hateful submission of women, is bad enough,” wrote O’Neil, “but Wolf arguably compared Sarah Huckabee Sanders to the worst character in the novel and show.

“Aunt Lydia, played excellently by Ann Dowd, is not just part of the oppressive regime – she is the enforcer. She patrols the quarters of the ‘handmaids’ to ensure silence, she assigns handmaids to watch one another, and she leads the handmaids to carry out brutal punishments to anyone who steps out of line.”

The Trump administration has mercilessly attacked Planned Parenthood and championed rules allowing employers to not cover birth control on their insurance plans. Trump himself has said “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who get abortions. 

“Unfortunately, I don’t think we advanced the cause of journalism tonight,” said Peter Baker, an MSNBC analyst and chief White House correspondent for The New York Times.

As Ben Bagdikian, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter, said in arguing for the Post to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971: “The only way to assert the right to publish is to publish.”  Freedom of the press is not advanced by sucking up to those who—like Sarah Huckabee Sanders—routinely lie to reporters.

Much of the criticism aimed at Wolf centered on her joke about Sanders: “I actually really like [Press Secretary] Sarah [Huckabee Sanders]. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”

“That [Sanders] sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive,” the New York Times‘s Maggie Haberman tweeted.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Trump himself has repeatedly attacked women, often for their physical appearance.  Among these:

  • Hillary Clinton: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy the country?”
  • Carly Fiorina:” Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” 
  • Megyn Kelly: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.” 

And Sanders has blatantly lied countless times on behalf of Trump.  Among these: 

  • “Everybody acts like President Trump is the one that came up with this idea. …There are multiple news outlets that have reported former President Barack Obama ordered wiretapping on Trump.”  [In fact, Trump started this issue with his specific and libelous tweet.
  • “I can definitely say the president is not a liar. It’s frankly insulting that question would be asked.” [In fact, by January 10, 2018, the Washington Post reported: “Since taking office, President Trump has made 2,436 false or misleading claims and flip-flops.”]

“The reason [Sanders] does that is because her job is contingent upon her being a serial congenital liar in defense of Donald Trump’s latest outrages,” said GOP strategist Rick Wilson in November, 2017.  

“She goes out and she tries to bury people in an avalanche of horseshit everyday, because this is her job.” 

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Rick Wilson

Mercedes Schlapp, a White House senior communications adviser, took to the Fox Network—the unofficial propaganda arm of the Republican party—to voice her outrage at Wolf. 

Schlapp and her husband had stormed out of the correspondents dinner in protest. She told “Fox & Friends” that Wolf’s jokes were “so incredibly disrespectful.”

Dean Obeidallah, a columnist for The Daily Beast, responded: The way I see it, a person in the Trump administration saying something was ‘disrespectful’ while defending a man who bragged on the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape about grabbing women by the pu**y, has demonized Muslims and Mexicans and mocked a disabled reporter is truly hilarious.”

And as comedy writer Nell Scovell put it: Comedians are stepping up in a way that journalists aren’t—as in Wolfe’s jokes about Sanders’ lying.

“If the job of journalism is to get at the truth,” said Scovell, “they need to do a better job.”

NUREMBERG FOR TRUMP, COMEDY FOR REPORTERS

In History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on April 30, 2018 at 12:06 am

It was the second annual White House Correspondents dinner of the Donald Trump administration.

Traditionally, it’s been an occasion where Washington’s political and media elites enjoy dinner and trade barbed quips at one another.

Barack Obama—President for eight years—never missed one of these occasions. And with his comedic timing—and help from sharp-witted speechwriters—he starred in them.

But Donald Trump has chosen to skip not only one but two such dinners so far. And he’s likely to skip the rest of those given during his term as President.

Why?

Because Trump—who delights in insulting others—has too delicate a skin to put up with having even harmless jokes aimed at him.

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Donald Trump

As both a Presidential candidate and President, he has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

But Trump skipped the White House Correspondents dinner to attend a “campaign rally” of fanatical followers in 2017. And skipping the dinner this year, he attended another Nuremberg-like rally in Washington, Michigan.

His speech featured attacks on immigrants, former FBI director James Comey, the European Union, Democratic members of Congress—and the news media.

Trump complained that the media hadn’t given him deserved credit for making possible the April 27  meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea.  He claimed  he had “everything” to do with it.

He attacked the media as composed of “very, very dishonest people” who put out “fake news.”

Meanwhile, at the correspondents dinner, comedian Michelle Wolf was on a roll. Among the barbs she aimed at the Trump administration:

  • “I actually really like [Press Secretary] Sarah [Huckabee Sanders]. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
  • “If you don’t give [White House spokeswoman Kelleyanne Conway] a platform, she has nowhere to lie. It’s like that old saying, if a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree?”
  • “There’s also, of course, Ivanka [Trump].. She was supposed to be an advocate for women, but it turns out she’s about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons. She’s done nothing to satisfy women. So, I guess like father, like daughter.”
  • “It’s 2018 and I’m a woman, so you cannot shut me up. Unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.”

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Michelle Wolf

This was an all-too-accurate reference to the payment of $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels by Trump’s lawyer/fixer, Michael Cohen, to prevent her from talking about her 2006 tryst with the future President.

Taking a shot at Fox News—which functions as a propaganda arm of the Republican party—Wolf cracked: “Fox News is here. So you know what that means, ladies. Cover your drinks”—a reference to men who spike women’s drinks with “roofies.”

Wolf couldn’t resist noting that the man who would otherwise star at the dinner—President Trump—had refused to attend: “Of course, Trump isn’t here, if you haven’t noticed. He’s not here. And I know, I know, I would drag him here myself, but it turns out the president of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab.”

Once again, a painful reference (for Trump supporters) to Trump’s infamous remark that, when you’re a celebrity, “you can do anything” with women: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

But Wolf had sharp words for Democrats, too:

“Democrats are harder to make fun of because you guys don’t do anything. People think you might flip the House and Senate this November, but you guys always find a way to mess it up. You’re somehow going to lose by 12 points to a guy named Jeff Pedophile Nazi Doctor.”

Those who weren’t Trump fans enjoyed Wolf’s routine.  Among these:

Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ attorney, said he thought Wolf was “really funny.” And actor Rob Reiner said that although Wolf’s routine wasn’t going over well but that he believed “she spoke the truth.”

But Trump devotees had a different reaction.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer called the event “a disgrace.” 

New York Times White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman reacted on Twitter:

“That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.” 

To which Wolf tweeted in reply: “Hey mags! All these jokes were about her despicable behavior. Sounds like you have some thoughts about her looks though?” 

According to the Fox News website: “Apparently offended by many of the comedian’s jabs at President Donald Trump and members of his administration, many attendees sat in silence, or simply got up and walked out.” 

All of which amounted to a Right-wing chorus: “Legitimacy—and humor—are for us. Not for you.”

TREASON BY NUMBERS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 25, 2018 at 12:08 am

Once you have decided on a treason,
Sign on with a man named Donald Trump.
And when you find your hatred is a reason,
Then on your country you can take a dump.

There really isn’t any need for worry,
Just do it and then go ahead and lie.
Like giving Russians secrets in the White House,
And that avoids those pests named “F.B.I.”

House and Senate Republicans have almost universally refused to to speak out against threats by President Donald Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller. 

Or, more importantly, to take action to prevent or punish him for doing so.

On April 17, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Robert Mueller’s independent investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election to reach the Senate floor.

Mitch McConnell portrait 2016.jpg

Mitch McConnell

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.

Earlier in the day, another Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, claimed that legislation to protect Mueller was “unnecessary.”

“It would not be in the President’s interest to [fire Mueller] and I think he knows that,” said the Wisconsin Congressman.

Why have so few Republicans dared to stand against Trump 

Because many House and Senate Republicans received millions of dollars in “campaign contributions” from Russian oligarchs who are answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

In short: Bribe monies.

And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, the donations are entirely legal.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
It’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.

Now if you have a taste for turning traitor
And you find it’s really thrilling as can be,
Then pick up that phone and call the Kremlin
And soon you’ll have a bud named Vladimir P.

The following data comes from the Federal Elections Commission.

One major Russian contributor is Len Blavatnik. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. In 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs.

In 2017, he gave millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, Blavatnik contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio. 
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell. 
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich.
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

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The Kremlin

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Intrater and Kukes––contributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.

Yes, treason isn’t something that comes easy.
It’s an act that makes most people want to gag.
But you can earn those rubles that you long for
And the Right will back you up and wave the flag.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
Treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process.

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik. This was just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election.

Billionaires don’t give huge sums to politicians without expecting to get something in return. And this is especially true—and frightening—when the contributors are linked to a former KGB agent like Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive intentions are increasingly on display.

Now you can join the list of Right-wing traitors
In history’s dark and evil hall of shame.
Their ranks are filled with greedy, racist haters.
At least the ones that we all know by name.

But if you can con you way into the White House
If you become the leader of the land,
Then treason is the sport of the elected,
And Republicans will give you a big hand.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers
1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
Treason by numbers
1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do
As your God-damned G.O.P.

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